1. Read This First

A quick search of Amazon.com under the phrase “veteran romance” offers opportunity for a lascivious romp through the American imagination, or at least the armies of lovelorn, housecat-collecting saps who read that sort of bullshit. Some plot synopses are confusing and involve love triangles with service dogs, and others have weird overlaps with Amish romance, alien stuff, westerns or a spectrum of kink, but these are the exceptions.

There is a clear trend identifiable in the 7,000+ hits: Beautiful but broken male vet with stunningly low body mass index and amazing abs happens upon virginal girl who just completed real estate licensure, purchased a farm and/or moved to a small town, or graduated from a school of social work. Without fail, the veteran is in need of extensive erotic therapy to overcome the ghosts of his combat-ridden past. Also without fail, the virginal “therapist” is abducted (or insert some other form of comparable distress) and, despite his desire to heal and get better, the broken veteran again becomes the monster he doesn’t want to be and saves her. More sex ensues and we presume they live happily ever after.

As absurd as these story arcs may obviously be, the romance section offers a valuable glimpse into how at least some amount of the American public dreamily views its volunteer sevicemembers. Often with little more effort than reading through these titles, we gain insight into what horrors civilians think servicemembers encounter on the battlefield, how they expect veterans to process those experiences, and even what civilians envision their own role to be in healing a generation of broken fitness models. The majority of these perspectives are either mostly wrong or idiotically so, yet they infiltrate political talking points, public policy and personal relationships, and often with poor results.

Yet veterans too can be hopeless romantics. There is an appeal to being the man on the eve of marching off to war, the modern day hero the public venerates. There is something attractive about knowing that your actions will in some small way find their way into future history books and photographs that your descendants will never dispose of out of patriotic guilt. There is also, in a strange yet powerful way, a draw to voluntarily subject oneself to the most miserable living conditions, separation from family and friends, regular threat of death, and the elevated possibility of never coming back at all. The mantle of martyrdom must be earned, after all; not simply given. Besides, if the American public rewards said martyrdom with an abundance of sympathy sex, 10% retail discounts, hiring preferences, and generally higher levels of respect, there’s reasonably little to lose (one thinks) and very much to gain. Stated differently, little else may stir the American heart like military service. What could possibly go wrong? In reality, probably a godawful lot, but we’ll get into that later.

Copyright ©, Ben Shaw, 2023
no part of this publication may be reproduced without the written permission of the author
(linking to this work, however, is deeply appreciated)


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